Sheri Samson
Students in the Human Development class at Mineral County High participate in the Real Care Program.

In the Human Development class at the Mineral County High School, three students sat with their babies – patting and rocking them, changing diapers and feeding them. These students were participating in the Real Care Program which involves taking an electronically programed, life-like baby into your care from Friday at 8 a.m. to Monday at 3:40 p.m.

Tyler Arson, age 16 had named his baby Ricky. His commitment to the program was very serious as he explained a preference for using onesie outfits for an easier diaper change.

“I babysat a baby before, so I wasn’t scared of having Ricky with me for four days, but being with him as a student was tough when I had to go to work or to sports. It makes you realize how much a baby depends on you and that you need family to help sometimes. It definitely limits what you can do, but the first night was the toughest. I had to get used to the crying and what the sound meant, so I didn’t get a lot of sleep,” admitted Arson.

Sisters Jesslyn Gomez, a freshman and Ayleen Gomez, a sophomore, focused on the mix of using the clothing that came with the baby versus using actual baby clothes.

“Their clothes have a computer chip built into them, so my baby, Valeyh, was better with the original clothes on, but the other clothes were cuter. When I changed her, the chip matched up with the babies cry to calm her down, with the Real Care outfit,” young Gomez explained.

There are four hourly needs programmed within these mechanical babies, designed to truly give a teen the true-to-life scenario that a real baby would experience – feeding and burping; changing diapers; fits or tantrums. Each of these students had differing programs within the babies they lived with for four days. A wrist band is worn which applies a sensor to remove the baby’s upset, once the action has been done.

Instructor Sandra Jones shared that a strict contract is involved in the program. Each baby came at a high cost to the school district, with a curriculum regarding everything from swaddling the baby, to proper temperature of the baby, techniques to feeding and dressing the child, along with a constant, unconditional involvement. Added subject matter is sometimes discussed such as “Shaking Baby Syndrome”, raising a preemie baby and other possible struggles.

All of the students admitted to learning the proper way to hold a baby by always supporting their necks and keeping them safely secured when moving them place to place. Taking the baby out in public made for some odd reactions, as they look and sound so real.

The oldest of the Gomez sisters stated, “Teen pregnancy would not be easy. I got tired with it all and my baby, Isabell, didn’t even have a real messy diaper like a real baby would, plus we weren’t really making up the bottles or having to clean them.”

Arson admitted that since his baby was dark skinned, he actually had people give him some racial slurs about “Ricky” not being his real child. Arson had taken the baby out when he was with his friends and shared that his family cat disliked the entire weekend experience.

This portion of teaching was part of the Family and Consumer Science classes, which includes Foods, Human Development, Fashion Design and Home Design.

When Arson was asked if he would be a better babysitter after having this experience he stated, “I was a pretty good one before. When I watched a baby, the people never showed me where the diapers were, so when the baby had to be changed I found a small towel and some duct tape and made up a diaper on my own. It worked until they got home and we all just laughed about it.”